- Charles Sturt, Mitchell Institute, and more than 50 industry partners have joined forces to develop a mental health action plan
- Plan focuses on improving healthcare for Australians living with coexisting mental and physical health conditions
- Plan will include a set of priority recommendations for government to implement
Charles Sturt University (Charles Sturt) academics from Orange recently headlined a national symposium to collaborate on a plan to improve the healthcare delivered to Australians living with coexisting mental and physical health conditions.
Experts from Charles Sturt, the Mitchell Institute, and more than 50 industry organisations joined forces at the symposium in Canberra earlier this month to develop a set of priority recommendations to present to government that will improve Australia’s physical and mental health treatments and services.
Key note speaker for the symposium Associate Professor Russell Roberts in the Charles Sturt School of Marketing and Management said thanks to the collaborative efforts at the symposium, a national action plan is now being developed to bring about improvements.
“Charles Sturt, the Mitchell Institute, and the industry partners joined forces at the symposium because we all identified that urgent action needs to be taken so the prevention of physical health conditions for people experiencing mental health conditions is considered a priority,” Professor Roberts said.
“Life expectancy for people who experience mental health conditions is reduced by up to 25 years and research shows 80 per cent of people living with a mental illness have a chronic physical illness.
“The industry partners, Charles Sturt and the Mitchell Institute are now working on a national framework and final set of priority recommendations and actions to present to government officials.”
Priority recommendations identified at the symposium to improve the healthcare for coexisting mental and physical health conditions include:
- implementing structural changes and improving access to services designed for people living with the coexisting conditions;
- a re-orientation of mental health services so the prevention of physical health conditions is considered a priority;
- adopting a collaborative approach to policy and practice that covers treatment and prevention of coexisting conditions; and
- strengthening treatments so they better address the multimorbidities in people living with mental health conditions.
Professor Roberts said there are a lot of changes that need to happen to improve the healthcare offered in Australia for people living with coexisting mental and physical health conditions, especially for people living in regional, rural and remote Australia.
“One of the recommendations identified at the symposium was how a unique approach needs to be taken in rural and regional areas given they have unique needs,” Professor Roberts said.
“We need to improve the physical and mental health services in regional and rural areas to develop healthy, vibrant and resilient communities which provide adequate access to services.
“We need strong regional communities where the foundations of strong physical and mental health are present.
“To do this, we need to improve services and facilities, such as footpaths, bike paths, gyms, parks and sporting grounds, and improve access to healthcare services, in rural and regional areas.”
The Charles Sturt academics who attended the symposium are based at Charles Sturt’s Orange campus and are members of the national research project ‘Equally Well’, which supports the physical health of people with mental illnesses.
The project, designed and implemented by experts at Charles Sturt, is investigating the impact of national leadership and social marketing campaigns on the utilisation of online resources to support the physical health of people with mental illnesses.
The academics from Charles Sturt also established an international learning and support network among 12 countries earlier this year to address the global issue of improving the physical health of people living with mental illness.